Cleveland Browns: Josh Cribbs

Josh Cribbs drew the Twitter ire of Cleveland Browns fans with one simple comment after the Jets were blown out by the Bengals on Sunday.

"We're not the Browns," the special-teams specialist told Newsday after Sunday's game. "We’re not the team that gives up. We have fight in this team."

OK then.

Cribbs then did a spin on one of his more well-known quotes after a Browns' loss to Pittsburgh. In Cleveland, he said the Browns were "going to take this loss and run with it."

With the Jets, he told Newsday: "It's good that [the loss] comes now because we're still in the mix of this." The paper's headline even said that Cribbs was able to see the bright side.

Cribbs was a Cleveland favorite in his years with the Browns, and many fans were disappointed when the team did not re-sign him in the offseason. But he would occasionally find himself in trouble for saying too much. He's available, friendly and over-the-top candid, and as losing wore on him he wore his disgust and frustration on his sleeve -- especially when he discussed his contract status. These kinds of statements are not untypical of him.

The brouhaha led to some interesting back and forth on Twitter, with Browns fans first letting Cribbs know their ... ahem ... thoughts.

Among the tamer comments Cribbs heard:

Which prompted Cribbs to state that he was misquoted:

Which, naturally, brought more ridicule:

Which brought a placid response from Cribbs:

Perhaps from a Cleveland perspective, this guy got it right:

One of the best returners in Cleveland Browns history left the team in the offseason.

As it turns out, the Browns may be using a faster, more elusive punt returner -- and in the end he may turn out to be just as good and maybe better than Josh Cribbs. Travis Benjamin has more quickness and pure speed than Cribbs, and when he gets any room to maneuver he is a threat.

Benjamin only returns punts -- he’s too frail to return kickoffs -- but Thursday night in the win over Buffalo he had a 79-yard return for a touchdown and a 57-yard return. Total, he set a team record with 179 yards in returns (the previous record was held by Eric Metcalf, who returned two punts for TDs in a win over Pittsburgh in October 1993).

“Fabulous,” coach Rob Chudzinski said after the game.

[+] EnlargeTravis Benjamin
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesTravis Benjamin is trying to make Browns fans forget about Josh Cribbs.
“Fastest man on the field,” tight end Jordan Cameron said.

All he needs is room to get going. And Bills punter Shawn Powell gave Benjamin room plenty of times. His kicks were long -- 45.5 yards -- but they were low, and he kept outkicking the coverage (sort of like I did with my wife). To the point that Buffalo released Powell the day after the game.

“It’s only a matter of time in this league before you get exposed,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said.

Benjamin has room to grow. He goes through games where he has trouble catching the ball, or does little on returns. He’s also so small that there is a constant risk of being injured.

Too, on the 59-yard return he let Powell shove him out of bounds. The cardinal sin for a returner is being stopped by the punter. Benjamin let it happen on the first, but on the second he ran through the tackle.

The key to any success is consistency, and Benjamin had a strong preseason but averaged just 7.7 yards per return in the first four games.

He provides hope with this game.

Letting Cribbs go was the right decision by the new Browns regime -- even though it was disappointing for the fans, it was time.

Counting on Benjamin was a risk. A year ago he looked small and injury prone and too inconsistent to play on offense. There’s a lot of guys who try to rely on pure speed who don’t succeed in football.

But Benjamin made a statement about his value against the Bills.

He just needs to continue what he started.

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